This weekend's results clarified most of the remaining issues about the composition of the Top 4 positions on the final home-and-away ladder, but left much to be resolved about the eventual 8th-place finisher.
Before we get to that though, as always the simulations inputs are crucial to our conclusions, and the latest expected game margins for all of the remaining 18 games appears at right.
Only three games are projected as having single-digit victory margins: Roos v Crows (Roos by 7), Blues v Dons (Blues by 2), and Suns v Eagles (Eagles by 7). Just two more games are expected to finish with less than 20 points separating the teams: Dons v Suns (Dons by 19), and Dockers v Power (Dockers by 15). As ever, YMMV.
Taking these expected margins and running them through the standard simulation process 100,000 times yields the heat-map that follows, the most prominent macro-feature of which is the box in the middle reflecting the broad range of teams with at least some hope of finishing 7th to 12th.
Essendon are strong favourites for 7th, finishing there in just over 60% of simulations, while Adelaide look most likely to finish 8th (34%), though West Coast (21%) and Essendon (20%) are not without claims to this spot (though I fancy Essendon would prefer 7th). Richmond (10%), Collingwood (8%) and the Gold Coast (6%) are other teams with faint hopes of snaring the last Finals berth.
Sydney look set for the Minor Premiership and Fremantle appear to have 4th-place secured. Hawthorn are more likely than the Cats to finish 2nd, but the Cats still have about a 35% chance of wresting that spot from them, with much depending on the outcome of their clash with the Hawks this coming weekend.
There are still scenarios in which Hawthorn, Geelong - or even Fremantle - win the Minor Premiership, but these are all relatively unlikely. Fremantle's chances are now equivalent to correctly calling a coin toss 15 times in a row.
The Saints have all but assured themselves of last place, with only the Dees seriously capable of finishing with it instead.
Viewing the same data as a manhattan-style chart makes clear which teams have a relatively narrow range of most likely finishes and which have a broader set to choose from. It also highlights the unusual, bimodal nature of West Coast's fate. They are about equally likely to finish 8th or 9th, but more likely to finish 12th. The outcome of their Round 23 clash with the Suns will mostly determine which of these fates they choose.
A Swans-Hawks finish is now more likely than not, cropping up in a little over 50% of the simulations, while a Swans-Cats finish was the next most-common, arising in just over one-third of the simulations. No other Top 2 pairing occurred more than 10% of the time.
The most common Top 4 was Sydney-Hawthorn-Geelong-Fremantle, which came up about 40% of the time, with the same four teams but with the Hawks and the Cats swapped, accounting for about another 25%. No other Top 4 occurred in more than 10% of simulations.
The most likely Top 8 staples Port Adelaide-Kangaroos-Essendon-Adelaide to the most common Top 4, while the second most common Top 8 uses these same teams but swaps Essendon and Adelaide in 7th and 8th. Only one Top 8 combination appeared in more than 10% of simulations, reflecting the uncertainty that still remains about the exact composition and ordering of the Finalists.
Finally, reviewing the current TAB prices in light of the simulated results suggests that three wagers currently have significantly non-zero expectations:
- Port Adelaide for the Top 4 at $8 (+20% edge)
- Gold Coast for the Top 8 at $17 (+57% edge)
- Essendon to Miss the Top 8 at $10 (+75% edge)
Clearly, the TAB Bookmaker assesses the expected margin in a number of the remaining games quite differently to the simulation inputs.